This fall, there have been two big developments in the availability of mobile payment solutions. For one, we saw Google deliver Android 4.4 with host card emulation, breaking Google Wallet free from carriers and their control over your phone’s secure element. That really gave Wallet the freedom to expand, and on the flip side we also heard that Isis – the big mobile payment competition from the carriers themselves – was nearly ready to make its national debut. Today, the match is officially on, as Isis becomes available across the US for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon users.
The Isis app is available in the Play Store, and you’ll also need a compatible “enhanced” SIM card, which you’ll have to ask your carrier to provide.
Functionally, while Isis payments should work about the same as Google Wallet, how you load money into Isis is a bit more convoluted. Unless you have the right American Express or Chase credit cards, you’re going to have to pre-load funds into an American Express account, from which Isis payments are then subtracted. (Update: it still doesn’t sound quite as seamless as Google Wallet and its virtual MasterCard, but we’ve been informed that this AmEx account can automatically pull funding from your primary card as needed, making it function in largely the same manner.)
That’s like how Google Wallet used to run in the early, early days, only that service has greatly matured, now allowing you to link any credit card and avoid pre-paying entirely. In that light, it seems that Isis forced its users to wait longer for a less advanced system than Google’s, which doesn’t particularly bode well for its chances.
In any case, we’re glad to see it arrive like this, if only so we can finally get this clash over with.